Wai Taumaunu's hard calls pay off for the Ferns

HAMISH BIDWELL
Last updated 05:00 22/01/2014

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Stern looks and stinging rebukes will only take Waimarama Taumaunu so far.

At some point the Silver Ferns coach had to make some hard calls too, if her team was going to stand a chance of defending its Commonwealth Games title.

Well, she made a couple yesterday, in selecting Cathrine Latu and Jodi Brown to start in the shooting circle in yesterday's 49-32 win over England, and sticking with them for the full 60 minutes.

Latu had already played ahead of Irene van Dyk during the Constellation Cup series, but there was a hint of desperation around that selection. Tutaia's spot in the circle has remained sacrosanct, though.

This isn't the end for van Dyk and Tutaia. Not even close. But it is the beginning of the sort of competition that has only previously existed in the Silver Ferns' defensive end.

"I felt Irene and Cathrine, throughout the tour, have been largely comparable. Jodi was chosen on form," Taumaunu explained after the match.

"She played better than Maria in the Scottish games and in the Malawi series [last year] so she deserved to start."

Taumaunu must have been sorely tested to summon van Dyk and Tutaia after an opening quarter which New Zealand lost 13-9. Latu and Brown were as responsible as anyone for the deficit, shooting poorly and turning ball over too.

But the coach kept faith.

"My intent at the start of the game was to keep the whole team out there for an hour ... but it would never have been at the expense of the result," she said.

Once New Zealand won the second quarter 14-7 England's challenge faded and by fulltime Latu, particularly, had more than justified her game time.

England goal keep Geva Mentor had the better of Latu early on, but was soon subbed as the Silver Ferns took control.

"If anyone asks me who my hardest defender is, it's her," Latu said of Mentor.

"So it was just about ball speed because no-one can do this game all by themselves, so we just needed to keep the ball away from her, and we did that really well."

Taumaunu was impressed by Latu's response to a slow start, while the goal shoot herself expressed satisfaction at the progress she is starting to make at this level.

"I need to be fitter, and every year I come back into this environment I'm fitter and smaller than the year before, which is what they want from me. I'm never going to be tiny, I'm never going to be the fittest, but I need to be good at what I can do and that is hold strong and move fast," Latu said.

Beyond Latu, it was the defenders who earned praise from their coach. England hold a high opinion of goal shoot Jo Harten, but she wasn't a threat for long.

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"I was delighted with the defensive performance and it's a bit ominous really, because we have Leana [de Bruin], Katrina [Grant], Joline [Henry] and Laura [Langman] in such fine form and we've got the likes of [Kayla] Cullen, [Anna] Harrison and [Casey] Kopua on the sideline. I'm delighted with that," Taumaunu said.

- Fairfax Media

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